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The Pin-Up Princesses of Austrian Wine

Plus, disaster at Mollydooker, an American team beats the world in a university wine competition at Lafite, a royal wedding, and a fraudster pairs Bordeaux with … cocaine?

Posted: July 21, 2011

Updated July 22, 2011

• Young, female Austrian winemakers are setting out to prove that when it comes to wine, “seductive” is not just a term reserved for the tasting notes. Come September, wine lovers, Austrophiles, calendar enthusiasts and fans of women in lingerie will be able to purchase the 2012 Jungwinzerinnen Kalender, or "Young Female Winemakers Calendar," for $36. Created in 2004 by publisher Ellen Ledermüller-Reiner, the annual calendar is meant to promote Austrian wine and tourism as sexy and fun. Though initially the calendar featured both young men and women (the first model was Daniel Bauer, a young winemaker from Weinhof Bauer-Pöltl in Burgenland), publishers quickly discovered that young females better satisfied the largely male demographic. Shot entirely in black and white, the scantily clad calendar girls are pictured leisurely reclining in barrel rooms, striking sultry poses alongside fermentation tanks and strolling through vineyards wearing lingerie and lace-up stilettos. Vine maidens to pose for the camera in recent calendars include Marianne Falk from Weingut Falk, Christina Weber of Weingut Weber and Tanja Burda from Burda Weine.

• Sad news from the talented folks at Australian winery Mollydooker: Much of the 2010 Velvet Glove McLaren Vale Shiraz, the winery's "pride and joy," according to winemaker Sparky Marquis, has been destroyed in a shipping accident. One-third of the total production, 462 cases, was ruined when the container carrying it fell from a forklift. Over $1 million worth of wine has been lost, and the Marquises feel that 2010 is the best Velvet Glove they've ever made. (To put this in context,Wine Spectator has never rated Velvet Glove less than classic.) "To see it accidentally destroyed (and not consumed) has left us all a bit numb," said Marquis. The prized wine retails at $185 a bottle, and had the forklift malfunction occurred just one container later, all that would have spilled was a shipment of … sand.

• There is often payoff in buying Bordeaux futures, but there are risks as well. For example, high-priced en primeur offerings may drop in value when the wines are released in bottle. Exchange rates may render purchases foolish down the road. In some vintages, négociants may just decide to spend your money on cocaine instead. The 2005 campaign was one such vintage for London-based “wine merchant” The Bordeaux Wine Trading Company, which turned out, according to a Hertfordshire Police investigation, to be more of a Cartier Watches, Range Rovers and Designer Drugs Trading Company. Customers who thought they were trading money for the promise of first-growth Bordeaux were paying for managing director Paul Craven’s $89,000 Range Rover, $52,000 BMW, $37,000 worth of watches—and cocaine habit. During his hearing, Craven said, by way of justification for his spendy ways, “The company was taking in a lot of money. It was doing well,” as though a business that only received huge revenues and supplied no product would do otherwise. Craven was convicted of fraud. Only $20,000 of BWTC investors’ missing $1.9 million has been recovered: It was found in Craven’s account at the Bank of Under His Mattress.

• In February, Unfiltered reported from a wine competition where teams of top business and law school wine clubs faced off in a quiz and tasting of Bordeaux wines; the winning two would represent the United States in the international championship at Château Lafite Rothschild in June. In the intervening time, the U.S. teams, from the Wharton School and Harvard Business School, have trained by rigorously “eating and drinking,” as Nicole Pereira of Harvard put it.

“We spent a lot of time tasting; we didn’t spend a lot of time studying facts about Bordeaux,” explained Katy Andersen, a Harvard teammate. The strategy worked considerably better for Harvard than the similar one Unfiltered applied to its college education: Harvard came away with top honors. (While only three went to Bordeaux, the HBS wine club numbers 450 members.) For the first time, the competition, called "20 sur vin" and organized by a coalition of châteaus known as the Commanderie du Bontemps (“The Order of Good Times”), included universities from all over the world. Two represented Asia, two France, two Europe and two America. The Americans took first and third place; the French, possibly regretting their generous global invitations, placed last and second-to-last. (A young French team did win the “press award” for best tasting note.)

The three-day event included visits to châteaus like Haut-Bailly and Malartic-Lagravière. “It was such a treat to go from Yquem to Lafite in the same day,” said Katy. But soon, teams were in the hot seat. First, ten multiple-choice questions. How many hectares of vines are in the Médoc? (16,500.) Which of three Sauternes is not a first growth? (Château Romer du Hayot.) Who was … George Yount? Harvard missed half of the quiz questions, but excelled at the tasting, during which three rounds of wines were carted out, and teams had to identify them by vintage, appellation and producer. “Some of the other teams were super intense,” said Nicole. “We just tried not to second-guess ourselves, and it worked.”

At the end, all gathered at a long table in a barrel room at Lafite and bonded over magnums of Rieussec and 1983 Lafite from a Jeroboam. Katy described the competitors as “really passionate about wine, really nice. At the end, everyone had been dancing, and the Baron [Eric de Rothschild] brought out his Armagnac store, which sent everyone a little over the edge.”

The Bordelais have good reason to get a new generation of business leaders interested in their wines; for Katy and Nicole, both newly graduated, their business is now the wine business. Katy has joined the online wine retail startup Lot18, and Nicole is an assistant brand manager for Dom Perignon in New York.

• Love is in the air for more than just British royalty this season, as Prince Albert II of Monaco and South African native Charlene Wittstock tied the knot earlier this month. The Monégasque haven’t enjoyed a royal wedding since Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III in 1956. Much like the British one before it, the Albert-Charlene wedding (and yes, she is now known as “Princess Charlene”) was complete with European "royalebrities," actual celebrities (Roger Moore, Naomi Campbell), dignitaries (Nicolas Sarkozy) and an extravagant dinner prepared by star chef Alain Ducasse. Unfiltered was naturally lusting over the summer fashion and Armani wedding gown but more interested in the wine offerings. As homage to Princess Charlene’s homeland, the white of the evening was Vins d’Orrance Chardonnay Western Cape Cuvée Anaïs 2009, followed by Bellet reds from Monaco’s neighbor, Nice, and rounded out with a 1996 Château d’Yquem. Of course, it's not a wedding without bubbly: Perrier Jouët’s Belle Epoque 2002 was served from its signature flower-emblazoned magnums, personalized for the event with gold script.

• The University of Auckland has recently acquired the Waiheke vineyard of Kim and Jeanette Goldwater, who, until now, bottled the prestigious Goldwater label. Thanks to the Goldwater family's gift of $3.5 million worth of vine land, the winery will now function both as a commercial winemaking facility, where a team will continue to produce wines under the Goldie and Island labels, and as a classroom of sorts, where students will assist—and produce their own wines under the Ingenio label. Students will spend a large part of their yearlong program on site at the estate, where they will gain valuable, hands-on experience in all parts of the winemaking process. In anticipation of the challenges brought on by an increasingly sophisticated and international wine industry, the university’s wine science program also plans to expand its curriculum and hopes to become a center for wine education and research.

Jodi Johnson
Washington —  July 22, 2011 5:01pm ET
Way to go USA!!!!!!
Toni Fadnes
Oslo, Norway —  August 26, 2011 7:04am ET
As a male wine lover, I am more into the wine, vineyards, winemakers, their stories, and not their undies. Would a male winemaker ever think of himself as a “male winemaker”? http://bit.ly/pq81UT I guess it works if tires is your game….

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